At first, everyone was amazed by blogging and thought it would change the world and drive traditional news media out of business. Then the original passionate bloggers started quitting or slowing down their output and predictions were made that blogging was just a fad that was going away. Now new sets of legs have emerged underneath the blogging phenomenon. Many, many legs.
We now have massive numbers of casual, personal and even professional bloggers. And it is not just bloggers. Blogging and lots of other user-generated information-sharing vehicles are here to stay. And then some.
This prediction may be coming a little late by some lights. If this is just a wild ride and a temporary Web 2.0 fad, it is at the beginning stages, not the ending ones. We are just getting out of the starting gates.
This is wonderful news for those of us who have gravitated to the opinionated blogger, Amazon or ePinions review and web or forum commenter as a proxy for advice from our own friends.
I have always preferred the small, amateur opinion, unsullied by commercial considerations or the subtle or not-so-subtle influences of corporate greed. The little website put up by a fanatic. The little engine that could. David and Goliath. That archetypal story.
I would rather a typo and an occasional error in reporting from an online friend to a polished, professional piece from a real journalist. OK, I do enjoy the New York times, but that is the exception. And, I would not be happy if that was my only source of information.
The powers of web 2.0 are finally beginning to impress me. A critical mass has been reached that I think is now unstoppable. Advances in technology and unbridled ambition will continue to inject better and better technology into connected environments. Here are some of the things that will keep getting better:
Social Networking Places. The social networking service is merging and morphing with various kinds of services and software and these trends will continue in different combinations and mutations. This is an organic, viral phenomenon that will be very fruitful as we go forward. MySpace has many limitations but it has been a phenomenal success. These places and spaces online will flourish like hit restaurants, clubs and neighborhoods do. Empowered and discriminating users will keep driving the next hot locale.
Annotation. Remember the cool and still-innovative micro-notes on photos that Flickr has? That is the idea. First, the photographer can add little notes. Then, when it is posted to Flickr for public access, everyone else, including passionate and gifted amateurs, can go in and add annotations to the photo.
Mashing. This phenomenon started in force around 1990 in the UK rave scene. This was even before music went digital. Digitizing art, music and text gives everyone (including tons of unrepentent pirates) access to high-quality ingredients from which to concoct their own unique variants. Nine-inch-Nails' Trent Reznor has just released another one of their album tracks in Garageband format with the original content intact (nin.com). They say they are going to release every track of their album this way. Wow!
Blogging Everywhere. Take blogging further. For example, when you post a photo in Flickr, you can essentially create a blog post when you do so. That post has a permanent URL. It has plenty of room for a long text accompaniment. It allows for comments and annotation of the photo. That photo (read blog post) can be added to various interest groups for whom it may be relevant.
Digital Photos/Videos Everywhere. Flickr, youTube and MySpace are fertile places for viral exposure. Part of this is the incredibly cheap availability of digital cameras in phones and separately. Phones and cameras can shoot video with decent fidelity too. We live in a media saturated world. News organizations are now actively soliciting user-generated photos. They know their limitations. They have small professional staffs who are dwarfed by the sea of user photographers and reporters out and about today.
I have made my living as an expert and expect to continue doing that for many years to come. All this rich information is incredibly appealing to me. How do experts thrive in a world where the amateur en masse has so much information to offer? That will emerge and evolve. Staying in the swim of all that is going on seems the only wise course.
Here is where experts may be able to add value. Think of all this user-generated information and the software and services that support it as gold fields. Think of those who help people take advantage of all that value and adapt to the changes and opportunities therein as the ones selling picks, maps and jeans to the gold miners.
There will be big players leveraging this, since these phenomena can get really big like MySpace and YouTube. There will be huge numbers of individuals and small players in that granular mix as well. Blending, mixing, observing, articulating and surfing the waves.
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